The movie “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” made the sports idiom “if you ain’t first, you’re last!” legendary. These words that usually seem so comical and irrational could not be more applicable as Cal track and field takes on Stanford in Palo Alto for the Big Meet.
Cal is no stranger to taking losses against the rival Cardinal. In football, Cal has lost the Big Game for seven years in a row, and in this year’s basketball season, the then-4-9 Cardinal in conference upset the 9-4 Bears. And, just this Tuesday, Cal baseball was overtaken by the Cardinal, 8-4.
Track and field has not suffered the same sort of string of losses as the football team has, but last year’s Big Meet did not go in favor of the blue and gold. A look at the scorecard would appear to tell you that the Bears performed very well. The men had nine first-place finishes and the women had three, with both teams securing several podium finishes.
But this was a dual meet, and because Cal did not place first in a majority of the individual events, it lost as team. The women’s team got shellacked — only putting up 48 points to Stanford’s 114. The men, while not suffering as significant of a blow, also lost, accumulating 77 points as opposed to the Cardinal’s 86.
Junior Ashtyn Davis, who is unfamiliar with second place, let alone last, will be Cal’s best bet to earn a top spot on the podium. Davis will be seeking his fourth consecutive win in the 110-meter hurdle event. A first-place finish would also mark his seventh title on the year, a figure that very few Cal athletes have reached over the past few years. But Davis has been an anomaly; most of the team members have only acquired one or two meet wins.
Sophomore sprinter Schantell Williams is among the athletes who have yet to grace the top tier of the podium, but at the Stanford Invitational last weekend, she placed second in the 400-meter hurdle event. This was her best placing of the season, and she outran both Stanford competitors by almost two seconds. As Stanford will be the only opponent, Williams is in high contention for her first meet win of the season.
Likewise, freshman Paramveer Chohan has only had one meet win in the outdoor season. Chohan was a hot horse out of the gate during the indoor season, totaling three first-place finishes. But now, when competing in different events, he has not found the same dominance. Chohan placed eighth in the 400-meter hurdles at the Stanford Invitational, but the Stanford hurdlers placed 11th and 16th. If the event were to follow along those lines, Chohan would take first, marking two meet wins of the season.
The ultimate goal of every meet is to put up the best times that will qualify an individual or relay squad for nationals. This weekend’s competition, however, will offer a unique dynamic in the form of a historic rivalry. We will see if the Bears can redeem themselves, or if they will finish last for a second year in a row.
Christie Aguilar covers track and field. Contact her at [email protected].